Green mail in a down economy

Target Marketing recently published an article titled “The Return of the Green Mail Debate,” which I wanted to share.  The article’s premise is that during this economic downturn, sustainability is less important to marketers, and that once the economy rebounds there will be more interest from companies in being green in their marketing efforts.

I believe this message is a short-sighted one. As I have written over the past couple years since the economy started to dip, companies that slash their commitment to sustainability to cut costs will suffer long-term consequences with customers who are increasingly demanding that organizations they buy from do business in socially-responsible ways.

The writer, Ethan Boldt, does try to segment marketers into various buckets, based on their (or their customers’)  interest in sustainability and how this impacts their marketing decisions:

  1. Marketers and organizations that do not care about green, regardless of the economy
  2. Organizations that always care about green, regardless of the economy
  3. Marketers that care about green, depending on their target markets

I do agree that sustainability is more important to certain companies than to others, depending on the markets that they serve.  However, the writer and some of his subjects imply that a barrier to “green mail” usage is due to its higher cost structure and that only once economy rebounds will it make a comeback.  This article fails to mention that people can be greener about their mail without it costing their organizations any more money. The fact that people can use wind power, soy-based inks (if printed offset) and certain types of recycled paper without any additional cost, is crucial to understand, as there is a rampant misperception in the marketplace that going green costs more. If people work with the right production partner, they can go green in a way that does not have a negative impact on the bottom line.

Marketers need to be sensible about watching expenses, especially when the economy is still weak.  However, if there were better education in the marketplace (from the U.S. Postal Service, the Direct Marketing Association, etc.) about ways to go green at no extra cost, I am confident that not only would marketers make more sustainable choices, but customers would come to expect that mail be done in a green way.  These would be positive developments, and would help ensure that direct marketing leaves less of a footprint on our fragile planet moving forward.

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Looking in the mirror on America Recycles Day

Image courtesy of the National Recycling Coalition

America Recycles Day (ARD) was held this past weekend (Sunday, November 15).  Put on by the National Recycling Coalition, a non-profit advocacy group focused on waste reduction, reuse and recycling, ARD is the only nationally recognized day dedicated to encouraging Americans to recycle and to buy recycled products.

These types of events are helpful reminders, but they come and go.  What’s more important is that we demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the environment in our personal and professional lives.

Over the past several years, our firm has worked hard to do business in a responsible manner.  I spoke with our Facilities Director, Barry Lyons, to get the latest update on what we do internally to leave less of a footprint.  I’m proud to include a list of the following: what we recycle, what we allow and encourage our employees to bring in from home to be recycled, as well as products we use that are made from recycled or environmentally-friendly materials.

What we recycle

  • Paper
  • Corrugated cartons
  • Batteries
  • CFLs
  • Fluorescent tube bulbs
  • Bottles & cans
  • Wood pallets
  • Metal (old shelving, files, cabinets)
  • IT: Monitors, computers
  • Printing materials: Plates, film, inks, fixer, developer
  • Paint

What employees can bring in

  • Batteries
  • CFLs
  • Fluorescent tube bulbs
  • Paint

What we use made from recycled materials:

  • Paper goods: Printing paper, copy paper, corrugated cartons, calculator and adding machine tape, our corporate stationery system, paper towels, toilet paper
  • Other: Office supplies where we have an option (i.e. paper clips), soap for our pressman (made from recycled walnut shells)

Other products we use that are environmentally friendly
Soy inks, solvents for printing, facility and office cleaning products, lawn care products, snow and ice products for our parking lot, de-icer for our stairs and entrance, new computers, new monitors, wind power for our electrical needs, exterior lighting on timers, electrical audit  of our facilities, etc.

By no means is our job complete.  There are a number of other ways that organizations can operate in a more sustainable manner (water management, hybrid vehicle fleets, green building, etc), but this is a good place to start.  If you are interested in learning the specifics of what we have done here at GMG, please let me know and Barry and I can help.

If you are in a position to influence your organization’s facilities and sustainability decisions, I encourage you to do so.  Making green choices can have a tremendous impact on the environment, on your relationships with your colleagues, as well as on your corporate image.

Unique Environmental Approach to Al Gore Mailing

Front and back of Al Gore mailing.

Front and back of Al Gore mailing.

My firm recently produced envelopes for a mailing on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee for Nexus Direct, a full-service direct marketing agency located in Virginia Beach, VA.

This fundraising appeal, comprised of 1.9 million pieces, was signed by former Vice President Al Gore. In keeping with his unwavering commitment to fighting global warming, the envelopes that were used were produced using environmentally-sound practices, most notably recycled paper, containing 30% post-consumer waste, and 100% certified wind power.

Eco-statistics for Al Gore Mailing

The back of the envelope featured statistics on the following savings: trees, pounds of solid waste, pounds of greenhouse gases, gallons of wastewater and BTUs of energy.


Please click here to view the mailing
,
which features all relevant eco-logos and a union label, as well as a full environmental report of the savings realized by using the above-mentioned practices. The statistics are from the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator, which I have written about on numerous occasions as being an excellent resource, especially due to its independent and transparent nature.

Graphic Design USA Survey on Impact of Environment on Design and Purchasing Decisions

gdusa-dark-logoGraphic Design USA Magazine published its annual survey on printing trends in the design industry this month.  The survey includes a page titled The Impact of Environment Matters On Your Design and Purchasing Decisions?”

It is very clear that environmental issues are very important to designers and end-clients alike.  Here are the key points made:

  • Cost is always a concern, as there is a perception in the marketplace that environmentally-friendly papers cost more than typical products
  • “Green” printed products are often used to support a broader organizational mission that includes sustainability
  • As long as quality is not compromised, environmentally-friendly papers are preferred

I am quite proud that my colleague, Brendan O’Hara, was featured prominently in the survey.  Brendan is a team leader at Grossman Marketing Group and manages some of our most complex print projects, and is well versed in the broad array of environmental issues facing our industry.  Here’s what Brendan had to say:

“I spec FSC, windpower, carbon neutral, soy-based inks and recycled papers a lot. We are a very ‘green-oriented’ company. Even if the customer does not specifically request these printing attributes, we offer them as a value added option.”

Here’s a link to the entire page.